Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Three Hundred and Twenty-five : Sea of Amber

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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE

Tuesday morning — 5:25 a.m.

“Try it yourself,” Jill said to Tanesha over her cell phone.

In her own kitchen, Tanesha stirred a pot of oatmeal at the stove.

“What?” Tanesha asked. She shifted the phone to her other ear.

“Try it,” Jill repeated. She was setting out breakfast for Katy in the loft’s little kitchen.

“I can’t really…” Tanesha said.

“I can finish up,” Jeraine said as he nudged her out of the way.

She smiled his thanks. He rolled his eyes up to the heavens in a dramatic “thank God.”

“I thought you’d burn the place down,” he said in a whisper.

She blew him a kiss and went to the dining room table. She opened her laptop, turned it on, and sat down.

“What do I have to do?” Tanesha asked.

Still wearing his fleece sleeping onesie, Jabari climbed onto her lap. She shifted so her lap was free and he scooted against her. Jabari was sleepy and warm so she reached around him to her computer.

“Now what?” she asked.

“I was missing Jacob,” Jill said. “And then I turned on the computer.”

“Oh, I already turned it on,” Tanesha said.

Heather came in the front door behind her. She carrying Mack in his car seat. Tink pulled the door closed behind them. Tanesha turned to nod in greeting.

“I don’t know,” Jill said. “Maybe it doesn’t make a difference.”

“I’ll turn it off,” Tanesha said. Her hand went to her computer to turn it off. Her hand hovered over the button. “Did your screen go dark?”

“Black,” Jill said. “You know I have that picture Sandy took of Katy and the boys? It wasn’t there.”

“Yeah,” Tanesha said. “My desktop’s not there either.”

“Hey! Do you know where…” Jeraine yelled from the kitchen. He pointed a spatula at Jabari and waved to Heather. “Never mind.”

“Is it black?” Jill asked.

Tink followed him into the kitchen. Heather took off her heavy coat and brought Mack over to the table. Mack was sound asleep.

“A window, you know like a video window, is in the middle of a dark field,” Tanesha said. “What the…?”

The smaller box was awash in orange and yellow. There were dark shadows, like sticks, in the background. Fin’s face appeared in the screen. He smiled at Tanesha. She looked down to see if Jabari could see this. He was asleep.

“He’s there, isn’t he?” Jill asked.

“Fin,” Tanesha said into the phone. She put her hand out and Fin’s hand appeared on the screen.

“Just like Jacob,” Jill said. “Can he hear you?”

“No,” Tanesha said.

“I had to take a picture before it shorted out the screen,” Jill said.

Tanesha hit print screen and sent the image to the printer.

“The print, you know?” Jill asked. “It came alive when I was in the bedroom.”

“Alive?” Tanesha said. “Like sexy?”

“Like I could see Jake,” Jill said. “Just his face.”

Jill said something to Katy.

“And now?” Tanesha asked.

Jill said something else to Katy before turning back to the conversation.

“Sorry,” Jill said. “What was that?”

“What’s on the paper… uh … the picture, now?” Tanesha asked.

“I can still see him,” Jill said. There was a sound of paper rustling. “He can’t hear me and I’m not sure he can see me. He just has a goofy look on his face. I could hear Blane.”

“Blane?” Tanesha asked. She looked at Heather.

“She heard Blane but saw Jake,” Heather said. “Blane told her that he would wake up today.”

“Let’s hope,” Tanesha said to Heather. Into the phone, she said, “Fin has a weird look on his face too.”

“Fin?” Heather asked.

She hefted herself from the chair to come around to look. Tanesha shook her head at Heather.

“Where are they?” Tanesha asked.

“Sea of Amber,” Jabari said.

“What was that?” Jill asked.

Tanesha looked down at Jabari. He was sucking on his thumb and looking at the screen. His dark eyes with their impossibly long lashes looked at her. He smiled around his thumb.

“Sea of Amber,” Tanesha repeated for Jill.

Tink came out of the kitchen carrying two bowls of oatmeal. She set them down and went back into the kitchen.

“What’s a sea of amber?” Tanesha asked Jabari.

Jabari just looked at her. Tanesha pulled his thumb from his mouth and repeated the question. Rodney came in the front door behind them.

“Not what,” Jabari said.

Rodney touched Jabari’s head in greeting. He looked up at Rodney and gave him a big smile. Rodney kissed Tanesha’s cheek.

“What’s that?” Rodney asked. “Looks like Fin.”

“Jabari says it’s the sea of amber,” Tanesha said.

“What’s that?” Jill asked into the phone.

Sandy’s voice came in the background at Jill’s house.

“Sandy and Rachel are here,” Jill said. “Jabari says it’s the sea of amber.”

“He said, ‘not what,’” Tanesha said to Rodney.

“Where,” Jabari said.

“Where?” Tanesha and Jill asked at the same time.

“Jabari,” Rodney kneeled down to Jabari’s level. “Is the sea of amber a place?”

Jabari stuck his thumb back in his mouth and nodded.

“Where is it?” Tanesha asked at the same time Jill said, “What’s a sea of amber?”

“I don’t know,” Jabari said.

Tanesha and Rodney shared a look.

“What’s a sea of amber?” Sandy said in the background.

“He says he doesn’t know,” Jill said.

“No, he knows what a sea of amber is,” Tanesha said. “He doesn’t know where it is.”

“Jabari, this is important,” Rodney said. “What is a sea of amber?”

“It’s a sea of amber,” Jabari shrugged.

“Where is it?” Tanesha asked again.

“I don’t know,” Jabari said.

“Come on, son, I’ll get you dressed,” Rodney picked up Jabari.

They were almost out of the room when Jabari said, “She knows.”

Rodney stopped walking. He looked down at Jabari. Everyone turned to look at Jabari. Tink came out of the kitchen with two more bowls of oatmeal.

“Who knows?” Rodney asked.

Jabari pointed to Heather, who had backed away from the table. She was standing near the front door. Tink set the oatmeal down and returned to the kitchen.

“Uh,” Heather said.

Everyone turned to look at Heather.

“What’s happening?” Jill asked.

“Jabari says that Heather knows what a sea of amber is,” Tanesha said. “Heather?”

“Well…” Heather said.

“Heather?” Tanesha asked.

“It’s not like I know for sure or anything,” Heather said.

“What’s going on?” Jill asked.

“Heather’s acting weird,” Tanesha said.

“Uh,” Heather said.

“I’m going to have to call you back,” Tanesha said into her cell phone.

She hung up on Jill. Hopping to her feet, she went to Heather.

“Excuse us,” Tanesha said.

She walked up to Heather.

“Well… I …” Heather said and she backed up.

“If you’re going to fight, can you do it after breakfast?” Tink asked from the table. “I have to get to that meeting at school — that is if someone doesn’t kill me first.”

Tanesha raised an eyebrow to Heather and she gave an acquiescing nod.

“Good,” Tink said and set two more bowls of oatmeal on the table.

Jeraine came out with a plate of eggs and Rodney came down the stairs with a dressed Jabari. Tanesha helped Jabari into his highchair and Heather woke Mack. They were just seated when Tanesha’s computer made a popping sound. The electricity in the house flickered and the computer started to smoke. Tanesha groaned.

“You backed it up?” Rodney asked.

Tanesha nodded.

“Everything?” Rodney asked.

Tanesha nodded.

“Let’s eat,” Tink said.

She sat down next to Rodney. Everyone settled into doctoring their oatmeal. After a few minutes, Tink jumped from her seat.

“It’s on fire,” Tink said.

Tanesha’s computer was shooting flames. Everyone jumped to their feet. Jeraine ran to the kitchen for the extinguisher. Heather grabbed Mack and Tink and pulled them away. Tanesha grabbed Jabari and they went into the back. By the time the fire was out, the room was full of smoke and fire extinguisher foam.

“Why don’t I take everyone to breakfast?” Rodney asked.

They turned to look at him.

“Good thinking,” Jeraine said.

~~~~~~~~

Monday morning — 9:12 a.m.

Phoenix, Arizona

“Where did you get this?” Agent Angie asked.

Standing in her office, she was reading a few sheets that she’s pulled out of the manila envelope.

“Someone gave it to my last night,” Yvonne said.

Yvonne repeated what they’d agreed to say. Agent Angie gave her a long, hard look.

“Someone?” Agent Angie asked.

“It was a woman, I think,” Yvonne said with a shrug. “I almost left it in the locker room, you know, after a massage?”

“Her memory is really not that great.” Dionne leaned forward to say in a low tone.

“It’s better than it was,” Yvonne said.

“That’s not really saying much, is it, honey?” Dionne gave Yvonne her practiced nurse-to-sick-patient look.

Yvonne nodded and did her best to look embarrassed.

“And you weren’t there?” Agent Angie asked.

“I was still in my massage,” Dionne said. “I came out and Yvonne had the envelope. Well, I insisted on opening it.”

“You looked at this?” Agent Angie said.

“We did,” Dionne said. “But like Yvonne said, we couldn’t make heads or tails out of it. Can you?”

Agent Angie nodded and looked at the sheet for a few minutes.

“Do you know what this says?” Agent Angie asked.

“No,” Yvonne said.

“As I said before, we looked at it but it didn’t make sense to us,” Dionne said.

“They are setting up a whole new business and a new website,” Agent Angie said under her breath. “Right now! Right this minute they…”

She tossed the envelope and pages down on her desk and went to her computer. Yvonne looked at Dionne and she nodded. After clicking around for a few minutes, Agent Angie leaned back in her chair. She scowled and picked up the phone and dialed.

“Yes, that’s right I…” Agent Angie looked up when Max Hargreaves came into her office.

“I understand that you have new information regarding the creation of a new pornography business using the data and content from the last business,” Max said.

He was so serious and extreme that Yvonne almost giggled. Agent Angie’s mouth dropped open. She glanced at Yvonne and Dionne before looking back at Max.

“You needed a way to get the information into the system without a trail of where it came from,” Agent Angie said.

“Answer the question,” Max said.

“What question?”

“Do you or do you not have information regarding the creation of a new company…” Max started.

“You can go,” Agent Angie looked at Yvonne.

“No, I can’t,” Yvonne said.

“It’s done,” Agent Angie said.

“No, it’s not,” Dionne said. “How are you going to catch these sons of bitches without us?”

Dionne gave her a nod. Agent Angie gave Dionne a mild, irritated look before turning back to Max.

“What did you have in mind, Agent Hargreaves?” Agent Angie asked.

“We catch them in the act,” Max said.

“And how are we going to do that?” Agent Angie asked.

Max smiled. Agent Angie looked from Max to Yvonne and then at Dionne. She scowled for a minute.

“And if I don’t go along with this?” Agent Angie asked.

“You really like that crummy apartment you’re living in?” Dionne asked.

“I don’t owe anyone anything,” Agent Angie said.

Max set his briefcase down on her desk and opened it. He took out an envelope. He looked at it before handing it to Agent Angie.

“Your house payout,” Max said.

“What?” Agent Angie snatched the envelope from Max and ripped it open. She read the number and looked up at him. “What?”

He opened his briefcase again and took out another envelope.

“Your retirement fund,” Max said.

“Did you keep these?” Agent Angie asked.

“I convinced those involved to release the funds,” Max said.

“Why would you bother?” Agent Angie asked.

Max shrugged.

“You want this situation resolved,” Agent Angie said.

“Don’t you?” Max asked.

“I…” Agent Angie looked at Yvonne and Dionne. “Yes, sir, I’d love to catch these fuckers, but…”

“But?” Max asked.

“What about you?” Agent Angie asked. “In my experience, if there’s a man in the room, he gets the credit.”

“I don’t exist,” Max said.

“You look pretty real to me,” Agent Angie said.

Max smiled and nodded to the computer. Agent Angie tapped away for a few minutes. She scowled and continued typing.

“How do I know you?” Agent Angie asked. “Why do I know you?”

“You met my sister,” Max said.

“She has a file,” Agent Angie said.

“She definitely has a file,” Max said.

“So I get to bag and tag them,” Agent Angie said.

“All yours,” Max said.

“And if you screw me?” Agent Angie asked. “Take my house? My retirement?”

“You’ll call my sister,” Max said with a shrug.

Agent Angie gave him a wide smile. She looked at Yvonne and Dionne.

“Ladies?” Agent Angie asked. “We have some work to do.”

Yvonne gave a little cheer and Dionne laughed.

~~~~~~~~

Monday morning — 9:12 a.m.

Denver, Colorado

“Why are you here?” Charlie was in so much pain he could only sneer at Ivy.

“Tink has a meeting at school,” Ivy said. “They threatened to kick her out forever if she didn’t show up and make a plan for being out of school.”

“That makes sense,” Charlie rolled his eyes. “Go to school so you can make a plan not to go to school.”

“I know,” Ivy said.

“What about you?” Charlie asked.

“I’m at the Marlowe School,” Ivy said. “I’ll stay there when they open the new one.”

Charlie looked away from Ivy.

“I thought you’d want to see me,” Ivy’s voice was small and sad.

Charlie groaned at himself. He rolled onto his side to look at her.

“Pretty pathetic, huh?” Ivy asked. “I can’t keep it together anymore.”

Charlie gave her a soft smile.

“Why did you smile?” Ivy asked.

“You’re talking,” Charlie said. “You used to just talk to Jeffy about this stuff.”

“That’s what I mean,” Ivy said. “I can’t keep it together.”

“Telling people how you feel means you’re getting better, Ivy,” Charlie said. “Not worse.”

“Oh,” Ivy said.

Charlie didn’t say anything for a minute.

“You sure?” Ivy asked.

“Pretty sure,” Charlie said.

Dale appeared in the doorway.

“Who’s your friend?” Dale asked at the same time Ivy said, “Some dude’s here.”

“This is my dear friend, Ivy,” Charlie said. “She’s like a sister to me.”

“Any almost sister of Charlie’s is an almost sister of mine,” Dale said. He held his hand out. “Dale. Nice to meet you.”

“His girlfriend was killed by Saint Jude,” Charlie said.

“I met that dude,” Ivy said.

“Sorry,” Dale said.

Ivy nodded.

“Charlie here needs to get in the pool to do his PT,” Dale said. “You wanna go in too.”

“Sure,” Ivy said. “Wait, pool?”

“It’s warm,” Dale said. “For Charlie. I don’t have a suit for you. Do you care?”

“No,” Ivy said. “Plus, Charlie’s seen me before.”

“Pervert,” Dale said to Charlie. “She’s a little kid.”

“Not like that,” Charlie said at the same time that Ivy laughed.

“We were homeless together,” Ivy said.

Dale nodded.

“You wanna help?” Dale asked.

“Sure,” Ivy said.

“We’ve got to get Charlie into this wheelchair.” Dale gestured to the wheelchair in the corner. “He says he’s in terrible pain, but mostly I think he’s a whiner.”

“Pan never whines,” Ivy said.

“Pan?” Dale laughed.

He came up to the bed and held his arms out. Charlie grabbed his hands.

“That’s his name!” Ivy said.

“Try not to cry like a baby this time, Pan,” Dale said.

“You’re not being very nice,” Ivy said.

“Nice isn’t going to help him,” Dale said. “Let’s go Panny-boy.”

Dale pulled while Charlie sat up. With Ivy’s help, they moved his legs so they came off the side of the bed.

“No casts?” Ivy asked.

“Just these braces,” Dale said. “He heals fast but he needs movement to get better.”

Dale picked him up and Charlie whimpered. Dale set Charlie into the wheelchair.

“Good job,” Dale said. “Ivy? You wanna get the door?”

Ivy opened the door and Dale pushed Charlie’s wheelchair through the den area and out into the backyard. It was dumping spring snow and rain. Dale jogged to get across fast. Inside what was once the carriage house, Dale helped Charlie to the bathroom where they changed into pool shorts. Ivy waited on a bench.

Ivy was sitting by herself when Maresol came in.

“Ivy?” Maresol asked. She held up a cute one piece bathing suit. “I got this yesterday when I heard you were coming over.”

“I can’t swim,” Ivy said.

“Time you learned,” Maresol said.

She gestured and they went into a small room to change. When they came out, Charlie and Dale were in the pool. Charlie was attempting to move his legs. Not sure of what to do, Ivy sat down on the side of the pool. Maresol got in the pool and gestured to her.

“What do I do?” Ivy asked.

“I’ll show you,” Maresol said.

“But…” Ivy started.

“I taught swimming lessons all the way through high school,” Maresol said. “I was on the swim team in high school. College too.”

“Oh,” Ivy said.

Maresol walked to the side of the pool. She grabbed the girl by her sides and put her in the pool. Ivy squealed with surprise. Charlie and Dale stopped working to gawk at Maresol.

“Why did you do that?” Ivy asked.

“Because sometimes, with some people, you just need to show that you see them,” Maresol said with a smile. “I see you, Ivy.”

Ivy nodded. They stood together for a moment.

“Well?” Ivy asked with a smile and a shrug.

Charlie and Dale laughed. Maresol smiled.

“Now we learn to swim,” Maresol said.

~~~~~~~~

Monday morning — 12:12 p.m.

Denver, Colorado

“Well…” Heather said.

“You’ll tell us eventually so why not tell us now?” Sandy asked.

She, Heather, and Jill were sitting around the table in Sandy’s back room. Tanesha was listening in on her cell phone from school. Sandy’s iPhone was set on speaker so Tanesha could hear.

“It’s complicated,” Heather said.

“Try us,” Tanesha said.

“How do you know about the sea of amber?” Jill asked.

“Everyone knows about the sea of amber,” Heather said.

“I don’t,” Sandy said.

“You did,” Heather said. “You just forgot.”

“So only kids know about it,” Jill said.

“I guess,” Heather said.

“You’re being really weird,” Tanesha said. “Just spit it out. What is the sea of amber?”

“It is what it sounds like,” Heather said. “It’s a sea of liquid amber.”

“Where is it?” Jill asked.

“It’s everywhere and nowhere,” Heather said.

“What?” Tanesha asked.

“I told you that you wouldn’t like it,” Heather said.

“No,” Sandy said. “We don’t dislike it. We just don’t understand.”

Sandy looked at Jill and Jill nodded. Tanesha could tell by the tone of Sandy’s voice that she was going to take the lead.

“How do we find the sea of amber if it’s everywhere and nowhere?” Sandy asked.

“You have to have someone like me,” Heather said.

“A half-Goddess?” Jill asked.

“Or a full,” Heather said. “We can find them, we just can’t go there.”

“Okay,” Sandy said. “Who can go there?”

“Anyone,” Heather said.

“What?” Tanesha asked. “That makes no sense.”

“I know,” Heather nodded.

“What happens if you go there?” Sandy asked.

“I’d get stuck like Jake and everybody,” Heather said.

“Ok, we’re getting somewhere,” Jill said. “You can find the sea of amber, but you can’t go there or you’d get stuck.”

“Right,” Heather said.

“Who can go there and not get stuck?” Sandy asked.

“A human,” Heather said.

“Like me?” Jill asked.

“Not like you,” Heather said.

“Like me?” Sandy asked.

“Like you and Aden and Sam, Dionne, not Bumpy or Jeraine, or Mike, of course,” Heather said. “Blane, Tink, Honey, MJ, um…”

“Aden and I can go?” Sandy asked.

Heather nodded.

“And you can guide us?” Sandy asked.

Heather nodded.

“But?” Jill asked.

“Right, there’s got to be a ‘but’ here,” Tanesha said.

“What are you going to do when you get there?” Heather asked. 

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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